Week 10 primer: Fresh off losses, Penn State at Michigan State is big

Week 10 primer: Fresh off losses, Penn State at Michigan State is big

The calendar is flipping to November, when they play the games to remember! And Penn State’s junket to Michigan State will draw a lot of attention in Week 10 as we enter this oh-so-critical month.

The Nittany Lions won the Land Grant Trophy from Michigan State last season but lost the previous three vs. the Spartans. The loser probably can kiss their Big Ten East title hopes good-bye.

Here is a look at the Best of Week 10.

Best game: Penn State at Michigan State. A battle between two teams coming off tough losses. The Nittany Lions blew a fourth-quarter lead and lost 39-38 at Ohio State. The defeat does series damage to Penn State Big Ten title hopes and playoff dreams. The Spartans saw their four-game winning streak end in a triple overtime loss at Northwestern. Both teams have tough defenses. What will give?

Best head coach matchup: Ohio State’s Urban Meyer vs. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. These are two of the all-time greats. Meyer has won three national championships; Ferentz has reached icon status in Iowa City in his 19th season with two Big Ten titles and one league championship game appearance.

Best coordinator clash: Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson vs. Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Park. Wilson has had a big impact on the Buckeye offense since arriving prior to the 2017 season after coaching Indiana. OSU is No. 1 in the Big Ten in total offense (571.3 ypg) and No. 1 in scoring (46.3 ppg). Parker’s defense is No. 3 in the league (17.4 ppg) and allows 368.8 ypg. He has been at Ferentz’s side for all 19 of his years at Iowa.

Best QB battle: Penn State’s Trace McSorley vs. Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke. McSorley hits 65 percent of his passes for 2,071 yards with 16 TDs and five picks. Lewerke is hitting 61 percent of his passes for 1,807 yards with 14 TDs and six picks. And each is good with their feet; McSorley has 303 yards rushing; Lewerke has 343.

Best individual matchup: Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett vs. Iowa LB Josey Jewell. These are two All-American talents squaring off. Barrett is coming off a sensational effort in a 39-38 win vs. Penn State, hitting 33-of-39 passes for 328 yards and four TDs and leading the team with 95 yards rushing. He now is squarely in the Heisman hunt, ranking No. 1 in the Big Ten in total offense (327.5 ypg). Jewell leads the Big Ten in tackles, averaging 11.6 per game. He also is No. 1 in TFLs, averaging 1.36.

Best chance for an upset: Michigan State vs. Penn State. It wouldn’t be a shock to see the Spartans win. We saw the Nittany Lion offense struggle up front vs. a good Ohio State front seven last week. How will the PSU o-line deal with a strong Spartan front seven? If this is a low-scoring game—and it could be—MSU may pull a stunner.

Player on the spot: Penn State RB Saquon Barkley. His Heisman hopes took a hit last week in a 39-38 loss at Ohio State. Yes, he ran back the opening kickoff 97 yards for a TD. But Barkley had just 44 yards rushing on 21 carries with a TD. He needs to get on track so the Nittany Lions don’t lose two in a row. Barkley will face a Spartan defense that is No. 1 in the Big Ten vs. the run (89.8 ypg).

More notes:

  • Iowa and OSU haven’t met since 2013. Coming off a huge win vs. Penn State, the Buckeyes are rolling! Ohio State is motivated after failing to win the Big Ten East each of the last two years. OSU has won the last five meetings vs. Iowa. The Hawkeyes’ last triumph? A 33-7 romp in Iowa City in 2004. Before that, Iowa hadn’t toppled the Buckeyes since 1991. The Hawkeyes have a knack of pulling big upsets in Kinnick. Remember the 24-23 stunner vs. No. 3 Penn State in 2008? And the 14-13 upset of No. 2 Michigan last year? Iowa almost dumped the Nittany Lions this year.
  • Northwestern won the last time it visited Memorial Stadium in 2015. The Wildcats also won at Nebraska in 2011, making Northwestern 2-1 in Lincoln. The programs are on opposite trajectories. The Wildcats have won three in a row, the last two in OT. The Cornhuskers ended a two-game skid last week but needed a furious rally to win at Purdue, as Mike Riley is under intense scrutiny.
  • It’s a battle for the Little Brown Jug! Michigan and Minnesota have split their last two games, with the Gophers winning in Ann Arbor in 2015 and almost prevailing last season before the Wolverines won, 29-26, at Minnesota. P.J. Fleck vs. Jim Harbaugh. Gotta love it.
  • Wisconsin has won nine in a row vs. Indiana, last losing to the Hoosiers in 2002 in Bloomington. UW has scored 50 or more points in six of those nine triumphs. The Badgers are hot, off to an 8-0 start. It hasn’t always been pretty, but UW just wins. The Hoosiers have lost three in a row and are still looking for their first Big Ten win for Tom Allen. They already have played Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State in Big Ten play. Now, IU gets the Badgers.
  • Maryland has won two of the three meetings vs. Rutgers since the schools joined the Big Ten together in 2014, with the Terps taking the last two games. These schools forever will be measured vs. each other.
  • Illinois visits Purdue in a battle for the Cannon. Both programs as listing. The Fighting Illini have lost six in a row; the Boilermakers were favored in their last two games … and lost, at Rutgers and to Nebraska by a combined three points. Deposed Purdue coach Darrell Hazell went 3-24 in the Big Ten from 2013-16—but two of those victories were vs. Illinois, including a 34-31 OT win in Champaign in 2016. The Fighting Illini have won the last two times they visited Ross-Ade Stadium.

***

WEEK 10 GAME RANKINGS
1. Penn State at Michigan State
2. Ohio State at Iowa
3. Minnesota at Michigan
4. Northwestern at Nebraska
5. Wisconsin at Indiana
6. Maryland at Rutgers
7. Illinois at Purdue

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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